Founded as a startup in 2012, KaTech has certainly come a long way. The customized texture solutions company – which has facilities in Germany, Poland, and the UK – was acquired by global ingredients giant Ingredion Incorporated, two years ago.
We caught up with KaTech’s group managing director, Cyril Carrat, to find out more about the company and how its texture experts are helping manufacturers create vegan products that are affordable, nutritious, and taste great.
Please introduce KaTech
Our focus is on developing the best product and process-specific texture solutions for our customers. The fact that we source raw materials independently gives us the widest possible view of the global market which, together with our proven technical knowledge, means we can adapt our approach to fit the technical and commercial needs of our customers.
This may, for example, involve enhancing product texture to meet consumer preference or improving texture stability during processing and shelf life. We’re also experienced in product reformulation, particularly when these changes are made to improve nutritional profile – such as reducing fat and sugar or boosting protein. Whatever the chosen parameters, our technologists will rebuild texture to maintain or even improve product quality and consumer satisfaction.
We also know that affordability is a key issue for the food industry and balancing commercial demands with product quality is challenging. That’s why we’re equally focused on helping customers bring their total recipes costs within specific targets, but without compromising product performance.
What solutions do you offer the plant-based sector?
We see huge opportunity to improve the quality and availability of plant-based food and beverages. As a company, we’ve made significant investments in developing customized texture solutions that bring these products as close as possible to consumer expectations.
This has led to strong growth in the dairy alternatives category, where we’ve delivered successful solutions for plant-based cheese, including hard, cream, and pizza varieties, as well as fermented products, desserts, and beverages.
We’ve also built a broad portfolio of solutions for white and red meat alternatives, covering everything from burgers and sausage to patés. More recently, however, our focus has turned to fish and seafood alternatives and we now offer a range of solutions for plant-based products formulated to replicate sliced salmon, fish fingers, tuna-style flakes, and more.
Other highlights include an egg analog product for bakery and convenience categories, with mayonnaise one of the many possible applications, but there really are too many to list.
Why should food and beverage companies rely on KaTech for R&D?
First and foremost, we work in partnership with our customers and bring a level of textural expertise that helps to speed up the development process and reduce time to market.
As a specialist, we have access to the global texture ingredients market and work with this complex portfolio on a daily basis; selecting, testing, and identifying building blocks for specific processes and applications. At the same time, we ensure that all our solutions are ready for scale-up, which provides an equally important time-saving benefit for customers.
The advantage of our customized approach is that we don’t come with a preconceived complete concept but work with our customers to make the recipe – and the finished product – unique to them. Whether that means using preferred raw materials, adapting to certain processing conditions, or hitting specific cost targets, we customize our texture solutions to ensure a successful and highly marketable outcome.
Can you share an example of a recent innovation?
Finding a replacement for methylcellulose in vegan sausages and burgers has been a longstanding challenge for the meat alternatives category. That’s because although this chemical compound has traditionally been used to deliver the characteristic texture you get from meat protein, it tends to lose the cold bite. In addition, it’s perceived to be an unnatural ingredient by consumers.
With this in mind, we have developed a new solution that relies on the jellification properties of plant-based protein to deliver an appealing hot and cold bite in vegan processed meat products. Plus, it offers the clean-label solution consumers prefer. We believe our texture solution without methylcellulose is game-changing for meat alternatives and it’s just one example of how we are identifying and responding to key market issues.
Are your solutions sustainable?
When we talk about sustainability, the validity of the data and method of evaluation is crucial. But with a standard industry framework yet to be established, it’s currently very difficult to evaluate the environmental impact of our solutions in a credible way.
That said, we are very aware that this is an important strategic development for our business. Right now, we can look at texture, cost, nutrition, production and market positioning but we don’t have the tools to fully assess sustainability.
To kick-start this process, we’ve created a dedicated research team. They are testing some of the more established databases and existing tools to see whether we could implement any of them within our business. We’re also looking at how we can take the consumer-facing Ecoscore labeling scheme into account when developing new products for customers. We may not be ready yet, but our goal is to introduce a workable system that helps our customers make choices based on robust sustainability data analytics.
Where can interested parties meet KaTech in person this year?
We will be returning to Plant Based World Expo in London later this year. Although I can’t yet reveal the exact details, visitors to our stand will certainly be able to see, taste and enjoy a wide selection of plant-based concepts created to showcase our texturizing expertise. Our technical experts will also be more than happy to answer any questions, discuss specific issues and explain how we add value to the development process. We look forward to seeing you there.